Saturday, September 30, 2006

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival

And me without a spinning wheel. We drove over to Canby for a short visit en route to my brother’s in Western Washington.It really wasn’t that far out of the way. We've never been up there in September, always in June for the Black Sheep Gathering. The trees are just starting to turn and I think it's much prettier now than in June - not as hot either. It's at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, which are charming. And we were looking forward to seeing Laura who was there showing her sheep.

I told myself that I wouldn’t buy a thing. You can imagine how well that worked. Once I walked into the vendor building, I was shopping. I was stunned at the huge balls of dyed wool that this vendor had. She said that she does them in a large canning pot in layers. It was Corriedale and I opted for the more expensive Blue-Faced Leicester. I decided to buy something that I didn’t think I would make for myself. She certainly uses more dye and brighter colors than I do. The plan is to make a triple-ply yarn for socks. That’s the plan for now anyway.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Felted Bags

I can’t believe how taken I am with felted bags. Well, I guess I can believe it since I’m always all about something. But I made this first bag on a lark to enter into the state fair, just because I wanted to be sure that we had entries. The state fair is our guild’s big push for public exposure to the fiber arts and I always seem to wait until the end to think about my entries and get them done.

But I love this bag, and I didn’t expect to. I have had surprising response to it – probably more than I’ve had to any knitted project. When both my daughter and daughter-in-law looked at it, I could tell they were hoping that this was in their Christmas future. Then my dental hygenist this week told me that she’d be interested in buying one from me. Holy cow! I’m still in the learning curve on how wool felts.

And learning, I am. That’s Yoda-speak for I’m still I still don’t understand how different wools felt. Amy and I were talking about my last venture which I found disapointing. She noted that sweaters when felted seem to stay wide but get shorter. My first bag was Romney and it seems to have felted evenly, but my last bag was Merino and seems to be wide and short. I added more rows and I expected that I would get a deeper bag,but I was guessing and I didn't guess enough rows. I think this calls for the dreaded swatch--no way out of it. Isn’t that what Sartre said?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I recently read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Ian bought it for me last Christmas, but because it was about 9/11, I decided waited until the September book group to read it. Foer has a fresh unorthodox approach to his writing. His first book, Everything is Illuminated, was widely touted and ended up being optioned as a movie. International Movie Database rates it as a 7.7 out of 10. And the book I just read has also been optioned as a movie, which that tells me that I’m not the only one who liked it.

The main character is Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, and pacifist. He is nine years old, and on a mission to find the lock that fits a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. Oskar, a bright, delightful, precocious, funny and innocent boy, goes from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem in his search. The only clue he finds with the key is the word "black," which he determines is a surname, and he endeavors to meet every one of them listed in the phonebook. As he roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of people who are all survivors in their own equally interesting ways. At the same time Oskar is trying to come to terms with the loss of his father, he is trying to protect his mother and a secret. I loved the book, but more than the writing, it personalized the loss of one family, which represents one of the many whose lives were turned upside down in a single day. A warning - from the reviews I read, I can see that this is a book that you will either love or hate, like Annie Proulx's The Shipping News.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fiber History

I am not certain of the roots of my fiber history but I know they are deeper than my mother’s learning to knit from the Red Cross as part of the war effort. Guess who was my teacher and guess why I learned the continental style, lucky me. I feel fortunate to have this picture of my mother posed in front of her grandmother’s spinning wheel. The Perrys had come to this continent from the Isle of Man in pursuit of a better life. Isn’t that why everyone came? I am so not into genealogy, but it appears the fiber gig was on both sides of my mother’s family. I can't be sure but don't you think it looks like a Haldane? And look at that distaff?! I love my Lendrum, but I think I'd have to move the furniture to fit if I could have one of these. And isn't my mum, cute - I regret the lack of family resemblence.

My grandmother had this piece of counterpaine set into a service tray, so that tells me that she had some pride in the value of the piece. On the back she taped the following typewritten inscription: “A piece of counterpane made near Frankfort, Kentucky about 1835—by our Great Grandmother McPherson and our Grandmother Sarah McPherson-Wilson. Made from the wool of their own sheep. Carded, dyed and woven by them.” I have some silver spoons in the garage in one of the yet unpacked boxes from four years when we moved in. My mother told me that they were purchased from the profits of the McPherson’s wool sales, recognizing that silver would have a more lasting value than wool. I’d love to provide a photo of them to complete this reflection, but not enough to dig through those boxes.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Much Better Natural Dye Day

This is the fleece that won Ian the Reserve Champion ribbon at the Nevada State Fair last month. I should have sold it at the auction, because while I'm busy spinning last year's fleece, Mickey is busy growing a new one. It must be that expensive hay because they all have huge coats!

The guild meeting today was at Marilyn’s house. She announced at the meeting last month she would be having a madder dyebath and handed out instructions on how to mordant. However, when we got there today, she had decided to also make a marigold dye bath, and Nancy Pryor had decided to throw in an indigo pot. I had been spinning like mad ever since she made that announcement because I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. I’ve never seen madder but I’ve certainly read about it’s historical importance. I have been wanting to dye with indigo so set some skeins aside this morning. To my chagrin, I outfoxed myself.

Mim came over yesterday we mordanted and visited and looked at dye charts and visited. This morning when I squeezed out the skeins I realized that my cottonwood skeins had stained everything yellow, while diminishing the yellow that I did have. I’m guessing that I didn’t need to mordant those again, but in the end, it didn’t matter – didn’t madder. That was the joke of the afternoon. And what a wonderful afternoon it was. What can you do while you wait for the dye action but visit, and we visited and visited and visited. I realized after I walked a friend to her car, that I’ve met my most cherished friends through this crazy spinning world of fiber.

I want to make felted bags so these skeins are either Border Leicester or Romney, which have felted well for me already. Starting from the left are marigold, indigo over cottonwood yellow and the remaining six are madder, the outer two were yellow to start with, the center two are overdyed gray and the other two slightly yellowed white. I still have a skein of the bright cottonwood yellow, so I'm anxious to start my next felted bag. I who have carried the same purse, every season, every year, am now creating a purse wardrobe. I also wore hip-hugger bell-bottoms to the meeting today. And cut my hair. People can change. It can happen.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Whadda Deal

After Allison had her stash reduction sale, I kept thinking about the many balls of Shetland finger-weight yarn that didn’t sell. No one but me seemed to be looking at them. The sale was quite a frenzy – rather like chumming shark infested waters. We exchanged a couple of emails afterwards, and I arranged to purchase the balance of her Shetland collection. The attraction to me is that these are all yarns of the same weight but in many hues and colors. I knew in advance that many of the colors were in small bits, but I decided to go ahead with the purchase anyway. It’s almost like a colorwork kit but with no directions. Allison brought the box to me at work yesterday, since neither of us has a day off together. Does that tell you how much she wanted to get rid of this yarn? It had to be at least an hour of round-trip driving.

Amy came out today to visit and have some down time. It's Labor Day - we need to relax, right? If you’ve read her blog, you would know that if she did stay home, she’d be working in her yard - that's labor. It was great to sit on the deck, knit, visit and listen to the birds. It’s been a while. Mim popped over and we sorted out the stuff from the fair. Mim and I split an award for the Nevada Grown division. After she left I realized that I still have her ribbon – we got like three. Ian went down and showed Champ his ribbon. We put our ribbons in the bathroom. Where do you put yours?

Amy and I dumped the box out onto on the table and started sorting the yarns. So here’s the question. Do we sort things because it’s part of our library jobs, or do we have library jobs because we like to sort things? What's in the box in the chair in that first picture?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Anna Quindlen

I went with Ian to the Public Library Association conference in Boston this year. I didn’t attend the conference but I did purchase a vendors’ pass which gave me access to the many publishing houses present. Random House offered a sign-up for staff responsible for reading groups, which was right up my alley, so I put down my John Henry. Nothing came for several months, but lately I've been receiving about a book a month. The last one was Anna Quindlen’s latest novel.

Just let me say that while I don’t read Quindlen’s columns or her published collected columns, I have read her previous four works of fiction and was the first name on our library’s hold list for her upcoming book, Rise and Shine. I couldn’t believe that they were promoting someone whom I thought all readers already knew – until staff in the break room would ask me to hold up what I was reading and then express puzzlement. I was surprised because I think she's in the league with Anne Tyler and Anne Rivers Siddons.

So if this is a new author to you, let me introduce her a different way. Her book Black and Blue was an Oprah Club Book, and her book One True Thing, published in 1994, was made into a movie in 1998 with Meryl Streep and William Hurt. However, my favorite of her novels is her fourth, Blessings, which I’m planning on re-reading this winter.

Her latest book Rise and Shine is placed in Manhattan and is the name of the morning TV news show for which Meghan is a co-host and famous for it. Her sister Bridget, the narrator, is a social worker in the Bronx. The sisters though very different women are very close, perhaps by virtue of being orphaned at an early age. I ask three things of a novel: sense of place, character development and plot, in that order. This book delivers all three, and while a little weak on plot, she delivers the story in ringing prose. All the plot in the world won’t keep me reading if the prose if weak, but good prose gets me every time. Plus, I’m a sucker for stories set in Manhattan. So she is my pick as Most Favored Author this month.